I started playing a new video game. Well, it is not new, I have played it 7 times (I think), I played it on the Xbox 360, the PS3,the Xbox One and the PS4. The game was released on 11/11/11 and it is called Skyrim. I have loved this game since its release and it all started with the predecessor Oblivion. So how does a game become this amazing? There is a parallel with the series I Claudius made in the 70’s. You see there are two distinct differences, this game is great, not great through marketing (Microsoft never learned that lesson). In I Claudius its greatness came from 4 elements.
- The Script
- The Cast
- The Director
- The Environment
I believe that games have a similar side to it, and we can see the difference between a good game and a great game. Even as there is no real cast in Skyrim, the makers have to define the characters, on TV they are played but the impact is similar. It is the environment that has the greater pull, whilst it was Roman times for Claudius, the medieval era that the Elder Scrolls exhibit have a similar pull on people.
It drove me to make the first design for TES: Restoration, yet in all this, I do recognise that another Skyrim was not going to make it, gamers are innovative driven not iterative and we have seen this going back to Tomb Raider 2 (1997) and even before that.
The first question becomes ‘How can we continue a franchise and remain innovative?’, the second one is ‘How can gaming be pushed towards future greatness?’ In the first case we need to investigate, the second one is for the visionaries. The first question is important because what was released between Assassin Creed 2 and Assassins Creed Origin was less and less and almost destroyed the franchise, it is nice that Ubisoft remains in denial and after that makes a ‘Looking towards the future comment’, yet the issue is much more important than you think.
Great gaming does not happen overnight and places like CD Project Red are really rare. A lot of game designers tend to be one trick ponies when it comes to great games and so far they pulled it off more than once, as did Bethesda as did a few others. Yet the ones that do are a minority and in the light of console wars investigating what is possible matters, good gaming is good for all, the era where Microsoft and Sony keeping each other one their toes driving gaming is almost a thing of the past and we need to see better games to resolve that issue. It does not matter how it goes, but at present only Sony and Nintendo remain great, Microsoft a lot less so and as such it will impact great gaming for Sony players down the line.
As to how to fix this, I have no idea. Yet the thought does propel me forward and I Claudius is still a prime example of what makes a product great. The fact that it can stand against any drama produced almost 50 years later is proof of that, yet in that regard looking at the elements help us. The two elements that are the strong drivers here are the Script (the game story) and the environment. In that regard Bethesda is sitting pretty for now. Evenas there is no finality towards Hammerfell (2021), the signs are good and as I personally see it, it would also benefit my idea of TES: Restoration. It doesn’t change the premise, it merely makes it larger and the new consoles are ready for that, the fact that PC’s need to reserve 150GB for the new flight simulator confirms that and gamers do not care about that space, they will do a lot more to their budget to get the best out of games. Thousands of Elite Dangerous fans are evidence of that, they beat flight simulators fans almost two to one on hardware. Andforthese fans storage is an important element (another thing Microsoft never learned in 8 years). And the setting is not PS5 against Microsoft, it is old, stale and Microsoft lost. It is getting The Apple and Google Solution to par off beyond Nintendo. It is not an easy trip but it can be done and a few good games is all that is needed. Not games already released (Diablo 3 and Skyrim), but actual new IP that the others do not have, that makes any new great game 5 times the challenge for the existing consoles. And it can be done, in all this I refuse to discard Apple, when it comes to TV Shows, they are showing to give Netflix a run for their money, and if they can do it on TV, they can do it on gaming too.
It is a wild west of digital format and both Google and Apple are on equal footing for now, yet the stage in 2022 is not known and cannot be set until the IP comes out for comparison. So all the junkies that are hardware driven will learn a very interesting lesson, the lesson that it was never about the hardware. The CBM64 people saw it, the PS1 and N64 people lived it and no one seems to catch on. It has always been about great games and as we see copies of great amiga games arrive on Android the decision makers are starting to wake up, yet they lost dozens of opportune IP that is now in the hands of those making a few dollars from microtransactions. It is the loss that we have seen over a year and the larger players are apparently not catching on, so where do the gamers stand?
Well, that remains to be seen. I Claudius was almost never a reality and so far has never been remade. The chance of equalling I Claudius is rare to say the least and surpassing it will be almost impossible. It is the impact of a near perfect TV series and games have had that same impact. On TV we saw other series making it good, even great and games can do that too. Will we see it? I have no idea, but if I can come up with 4 golden idea’s in a year there is no way that there is no one else doing that same thing. My biggest issue is that it is unlikely to be Ubisoft, it is more and more likely that several indie developers are sitting on that great idea and finding them by the right people is what counts towards the next console battle. As I personally (and speculatively) see it, someone (high up) at Microsoft will open their mouth making a needed jump to their precious Azure solution, making the game a no go, as such I am more and more curious on what Apple and Google pull off. They might have what it takes to become a member of the big 4, the question at this point will be, does Microsoft have what it takes to remain one of the big four in 2023. The game is open for a lot of players, yet will they have the software to make it count?